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I want to start an insect farming business, how do I go about it?

edited December 2013 in Bug Farming Questions
Q: I want to start an insect farming business, how do I go about it?

A: We have received this question from individuals all over the world, on every continent except Antarctica (so far!). The products and knowledge base we are currently developing will help provide answers to the technical side of the question, but there are many details that will vary by country and our current experience is limited to the United States. We hope that anyone on this forum with experience or knowledge about the following points will contribute!

Site Selection - you will need a suitable space to start your farm. Depending on your scale this could be a spare room in your house, a garden shed, a shipping container, or a warehouse. Site selection will have to depend both on your desired scale of operation and local regulations as discussed next.

Regulations - you will need to check with your local authorities regarding compliance with any permitting requirements for (a) operating a business (b) raising livestock in general (c) raising insects specifically - since some species are considered agricultural pests there may be special regulations around their cultivation. In the United States you will have to comply with permitting and licensing requirements dependent on your state, county and city in addition to general USDA and FDA guidelines for livestock rearing and processing. As we move forward, we will be posting more information on relevant guidelines for insect farming here in the US, and we look forward to learning more about and sharing regulatory requirements and issues in other countries.

Identify Market - depending on your scale and location, you will have different market opportunities. For examples, a large scale operation in an agrarian area may have excellent opportunities to serve as a feed provider for local farms, and would have a ready market for the high quality organic fertilizer produced as a byproduct of the insects. Alternatively a smaller urban operation may have more opportunity to market directly to chefs/restaurants and local pet food stores.
Regarding necessary resources and investment to get started - it depends entirely on your location and target scale. In the US, a small operation producing enough insect to supply local pet food shops and restaurants could be set up for just a couple thousand dollars, whereas larger operations could be built at scales requiring tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Stay tuned as we will be posting more in depth on the economics of insect farming!


  • I am clumsy navigating around the forum. I am interested in a Open Source Bug Farm Kit. I see no where to purchase one. Am I missing something?
  • Hi Jeff,

    We're still developing the kits and we're aiming to start shipping in the first quarter of 2014. In the meantime we've opened the forum to open up the conversation about insect farming, start sharing information, and to get input that will help guide the initial kit design. We'll be posting regular updates and discussions on the topic, so definitely stick around!

  • Thank you for your response Andrew. I have another question, does insect farming attract rodents? I would hate to have the most well fed mice in the world and no bugs.
  • Rodents, reptiles, birds and other insects (especially ants) and arachnids can all be attracted to insect farming operations, either to eat the bugs themselves or their feed (particularly if you have a grain based feed). This is a key issue that has to be considered in every bug farm's location selection and design.

    Typically the containers are kept screened to keep out these unwanted pest and predators. This has proven sufficient in our experience, but we've luckily never been faced with a concerted rodent attack. This is a really important point to keep in mind and it's worth spinning out it's own thread to discuss problems and various solutions!
  • Hey Jeff
    If you're looking to start a business using edible insects, please let us know! We specialize in helping people get their edible insect company started and provide human grade insects as ingredients. We already supply awesome companies like Don Bugito and Exo.
  • I'm just starting, but have heard that when you use screens, make sure they are wire - not plastic screen. Makes sense.
  • For sure - we've even seen crickets eat through some types of screen!
  • I noticed my meal worms gathering in the back corners of their drawer... could it be because it's the darkest place? Or something else... (like, they are shy/embarrassed to be bugs).
  • Ate my first bug! (Not really, we ALL eat bugs - the cochineal bug used as red food dye in MANY foods ie cola) - meal worms. No taste, but nice texture in my omelette. Are they like crickets in that they take on the taste of the food they eat?
  • Most bugs that we have eaten have quite a mild flavor that can be easily overpowered by the rest of the dish. Roasted plain or lightly fried mealworms have a mild nutty taste, similar to a sunflower seed or popcorn (if fried in butter), and also flavor that is best described as "mushroomy" which may be from the chiton in the exoskeleton (mushrooms' structures are also largely made up of chiton). Crickets are also mild, but have a more shrimpy flavor.

    About the gathering behavior, we've always observed similar patterns in our growing trays, with worms congregating in the corners. We've seen in in lit and darkened habitats so it doesn't seem to be directly light related. Many insects' roaming behaviors include a preference to follow walls, and it may be that their random roaming in the bedding turns into wall-following roaming when they reach the edge of the container and this could easily account for the pattern of corner gathering. This is actually a very interesting behavior that should be investigated further because it could have pretty significant implications for high efficiency habitat design.
  • Great point Andrew, would more 'corners' placed in a box make happier bugs? Perhaps it would increase yield per box? (doubt that though). I love all the questions.
  • edited January 2014
    CARPET burrowing. My dropped meal worms immediately burrowed into the carpet (all 1000 of the beggers!) within 30 seconds. :(( :(( - even the ones covered over by a pile of oats dug in. So does this tell us anything useful? If they eat the carpet that's bad. If they love to hide in carpet fibre and come out to eat their oats, this might allow a higher concentration of worms per sq cm. I'm thinking -a layer of carpet covered with oats covered with carpet then oats etc. Wait for me, I'm putting 10 worms into a test drawer with a little carpet square to see what happens.
  • That's awesome, let us know how it goes. We need to build a central place for the results of experiments like these!
  • far (24 hrs later) 7 meal worms are hiding under the carpet scrap and 3 in the fibres. looks like it's no different to burrowing down in the oatmeal. I thought one was dead but left it there... now alive. Is this their behaviour when they shed? - ps. I think when I dropped them they just burrowed down to P me off.
  • edited February 2014
    Another question... when you buy 1000 meal worms and they promise 10% extra, how do they know how many they have packaged. Can't imagine them counting! So there would be a temptation to sell less of them, who would know? :-/
  • Yes dansitu - this 'experiments' place would encourage us all to question, share and grow. *-:)
  • Sorry if this info is available elsewhere, but anyone knows how to deal with ants in the mealworm farming?
    I have some really small ants inside the larvae box, on the pupae and beettles there is none.

    Thanks in advance
  • @kerri - they sell the worms usually by weight or volume. They'll count out once and measure the weight or volume in a graduated cylinder, then when it comes time to fill an order they'll ship the weight/volume they had previously counted + 10%

    @Allen - we have some discussion here:
    I'll respond to your question about ants on the pest thread as well
  • A comment on the lighter side... Keep your poodle away from your cricket farm!, he was intrigued by the chirping and jumping and tipped the box over for a closer look. Then it was ME jumping and squealing like a girly to catch as many as I could, and he joined in all the fun. So wish it was on video :))
  • We've talked about keeping pest insects and rodents out of colonies, but it sounds like we should get some talk going about pet-proofing! :)
  • Or poodle farming?
  • How about training poodles to herd crickets from the garden into a pen? :-B
  • X_X Straight after getting my forty crickets, they were bangin' away like drums and the so called "ladies" were all over the dirt to lay their little 'un's... I think I need a priest cricket in there to keep it nice. >:) Or should I give them a lecture on the ~:>'s and :bz's?
  • edited February 2014
    Haha, that's great! You'll have your next generation hatching out soon. Let us know if you want any guidance on getting the conditions right - too humid and the eggs will mold, but not enough and they'll dry out.
  • Found a great way to feed crickets water. Plastic container, cut a big hole, stuff with wet paper towel. (stays wet for longer, easy to handle, no gel chemicals). This from a kid on u-tube! The young kids rare the best and most innovative, older people SO drivel on.
  • The BIG BORING job of cutting out the base of plastic drawers to glue mesh in. Try heating your N.T. Cutter blade on the stove, will totally bugger the knife after a while but so worth it! X(
  • Thanks to your innovative ideas on designing the kits for breeding, I just transferred my meal worm into the mesh-based drawer. Brilliant! :D The fras is falling through and I'll be sure to rescue eggs and tiny worms (not sure how to yet, but that will come in good time). Any advice? Adore the idea of hanging bags - it all makes sense.
  • Sounds awesome! Got any pictures?

    I think with mealworms, it makes sense to transfer your breeding population into a separate breeding/hatching container that doesn't have any mesh - only transferring their offspring into a mesh container once they're big enough to avoid falling through. You'll only be keeping a fraction of them for breeding (hopefully eating the rest) so it shouldn't need to be too large.
  • I saw on a video where they put their breeders on mesh so that the eggs and babies fell through on purpose so that the beetles wouldn't eat them and you don't have to separate by hand...
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